In Macron's battle for Europe, Trump is a foe

From L-R: Trump, Merkel, Mr. and Mrs. Macron, Putin at the ceremony in Paris. Photo: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

President Emmanuel Macron seemed to many to be speaking for Europe, even the free world, when he denounced nationalism as the “opposite of patriotism” and the enemy of peace and morality as President Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin looked on. He wasn’t.

Why it matters: Trump’s antagonism toward Europe, and his immense unpopularity there, would seem to offer Macron the ideal foil as he seeks to shepherd the EU into a new consensus that security threats from the likes of Russia, economic competition with giants like China and the unreliability of the U.S. necessitate a strong, unified Europe that can throw its collective weight around. But the nationalists on his own continent are undermining that vision — and they have a powerful friend in Washington.

Expert Voices

In Bolsonaro, Bolton finds a dangerous ally

Supporters of Brazil's elected presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro are celebrating the confirmation of the victory of the second round of elections in the Paulista avenue
Supporters of Brazil's elected presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro celebrating his victory in São Paulo, on October 28, 2018. Photo: Fabio Vieira/FotoRua/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In a vituperative speech about Latin America on Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton referred to the Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan governments as a “troika of tyranny” and their leaders as "the three stooges." Perhaps most notably, after making vague promises to pressure the three repressive regimes and announcing an imminent increase in sanctions on Venezuela, Bolton called Brazil's recently elected right-wing authoritarian, Jair Bolonsoro, a “like-minded” leader for the Trump administration.

Why it matters: There is a clear affinity between the demagoguery of Trump and Bolsonaro, who are often facilely compared, but the latter's is hardly the sort of liberal government that would make a good ally against the oppressive “triangle of terror.” In fact, as a growing body of political science research has argued, Bolsonaro’s approach is in line with the strain of anti-democratic populism that has sprung up in Turkey, Poland, Hungry, the Philippines and Venezuela under former President Hugo Chávez.

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